What Are Injury Ratings and How Are They Determined in Workers’ Comp Claims?
Our North Carolina workers’ comp lawyers are often asked, “What are injury ratings in a workers’ comp case, and how are they determined?”
This is a great question. Here’s the deal on workers’ comp injury ratings:
When you reach “Maximum Medical Improvement” or “MMI,” your doctor will usually assign you a “Permanent Partial Disability Rating.” This is often also called a “PPD Rating” or just a “Rating.” Sometimes, it’s called a “PPI Rating” or “Permanent Partial Impairment Rating.” Whatever name you use, an injury rating in a workers’ comp case is where your doctor tries to give a numerical value to what you have lost in functionality because of your injury.
So, for example, your doctor might assign a 5% rating to your hand to indicate that your hand is only 95% of what it was before your accident. This rating is meant to consider things like the strength of your hand, your range of motion, and your pain level.
Keep in mind that the ratings assigned in North Carolina are different from ratings given elsewhere. Most states assign ratings under the American Medical Association or “ADA” Guidelines. North Carolina uses its own set of guidelines outlined by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
For more information on common workers’ comp questions, visit our workers’ comp FAQ page.
How is an Injury Rating Assigned in a Workers’ Comp Claim?
While the rating guidelines are very specific in some regards, there is also a great deal of subjectivity in assignment of ratings. It is not unusual for two doctors to differ significantly in the ratings they assign so it is often in your interest to request a second opinion on your rating.
In many instances, a treating physician will actually assign a lower disability rating than a second opinion physician simply because the treating physician is inclined to look favorably on the effectiveness of his or her own skills. For example, a doctor who performs a back surgery is often inclined to feel that his or her patient has enjoyed an excellent recovery thanks to his or her own skills, and therefore assign a lower rating. On the other hand, a second opinion physician who did not perform the surgery might look differently at the patient’s outcome, since as an outside observer who had no part in the surgery, he or she can give the patient an unbiased opinion.
What Happens When Injury Ratings are Different?
The ratings are also set up such that two ratings might both be technically correct, but substantially different. For example, take an injured worker who has his ring finger amputated on the job. One physician might assign a 100% rating to a patient’s FINGER, but a second opinion physician might instead assign a 20% rating to the HAND.
In cases like this, both ratings may be technically correct and permissible under the rating guidelines. After all, the patient did lose his entire ring finger, and thus suffered a 100% loss of the finger. But he also suffered loss to the use of his hand, and cannot grip things in the same way, and having lost 1/5 of his fingers, can easily be said to have lost 20% of his ability to use his hand. So both ratings look correct.
However, under N.C.G.S. 97-31, a 20% rating to the hand is worth double a 100% rating to the ring finger. This is why it’s important to get a second opinion, and also to consult with an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer.
It is also important to note that ratings go hand in hand with an injured worker’s “comp rate,” also known as compensation rate. So, if an injured worker makes more money, his rating is worth more. So the same rating might be worth more or less depending on what you earned on the job prior to your injury. For that reason, it is very important to confirm the compensation rate you have been assigned to make sure it is accurate.
Need Help with a Workers’ Comp Claim in North Carolina?
Our NC workers’ comp attorneys are ready to help however they can. Our team is led by two Board-Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation law, which means they have been recognized by the North Carolina State Bar for their experience and expertise in this area of legal practice.
Attorney Chris Brantley is a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and attorney Adam Smith is a member of Super Lawyers and maintains the highest rating for practicing attorneys from Martindale-Hubbell, AV Preeminent (see disclaimer below).
Results for Injured Workers
We’ve successfully advocated on behalf of hundreds of injured North Carolina workers, obtaining significant settlements and judgments, including a recent $2.475 million settlement for a construction worker who suffered a disabling head injury in a fall from a platform (see disclaimer below).
“They turned a heartbreaking situation completely around.”
–Tonya Taylor, Riddle & Brantley client
There is never any obligation and we don’t get paid unless you do. If we don’t get you the workers’ comp benefits you deserve, you won’t pay any attorney fees.
Our attorneys handle all types of common work injuries, including those involving:
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Hand injuries
- Repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel
- Knee injuries
- Construction accident injuries
- Slip and fall injuries
- Work-related auto accidents
We serve clients throughout the state, including in Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Wilmington, Jacksonville, and New Bern.
*** Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.
*** Disclaimer: An attorney must meet certain requirements to join these organizations or receive these awards. For more information on Membership Criteria for Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers Top 100, The National Association of Distinguished Counsel, AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the Litigator Award, and other memberships, awards, and accolades, please visit our Membership Criteria page. These awards and memberships should not be construed as a promise or guarantee of a similar result. Each case is different and must be evaluated separately.